At what age did music matter the most to you?

It was a small thought, borne out of a pretty pointless act a couple of months ago, that has transmogrified into something of an existential crisis.

“What 12 albums means most to you?”

That wasn’t quite how it was phrased. But the viral Facebook meme – which a (knowingly/unknowingly callous?) friend had passed on – was cheerfully simplistic in its main aim, and soothingly said not to take too much time over it.

I tried not to, I really did. And I kept it down to about 10 minutes.

But oh what a 10 minutes.

Not so much the selections themselves. That was tricky though not insurmountable. I knew some would be left behind on a whim, and ultimately it wouldn’t mean much.

What actually caused me agony was trying to determine which albums were the more essential and life-changing given the age at which I experienced them.

Did Queen’s A Kind of Magic…

…mean more than Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf…

…because I experienced it at a younger, more formative age? Or should the latter triumph since it came at a period where I was at the peak of my own amateur music “career”, so may well have proved more influential as a guiding creative light?

Who bloody knows. Both merited a place on the list, but neither got on there: presumably because I was so frantic trying to balance one album against another against yet another but oh that one how could I forget that one and yes I really needed to bear in mind that… Well, you get the idea.

It wasn’t too hard to figure out what was really worrying me about this whole meaningless process: if the end product of my thoughts was dominated by the albums I loved as a child, then it would imply that there was a sliding scale of importance – that music now matters less to me and shall continue to do so.

I have some on in the background now. Thanks to streaming services I now have the choice of millions of songs, including pretty much all of my favourites. But whenever I try to think about what I want to listen to, I almost always draw a blank and opt for whatever section can provide the most reliable automated guidance. Perhaps filling out music quizzes on social media is a last flaccid roll of the dice? And it’s one for which I’m unable to even provide a decent soundtrack.

I hope not, but I realise that that hope skews my judgement, and I’m therefore not to be trusted. Perhaps that Artificial Intelligence that Facebook is slowly-but-surely adopting will help scientifically determine what the truth is, and one more quiz will uncover the truth. I’d be far to scared to try it, of course. But at least I could be assured that there is an answer out there, then imagine that it would be an answer that proves me right.

Actually, I think that’s probably the most fitting resolution that could be achieved, given that music for me is most often about being absolutely certain that I’m right, and being too terrified and/or outraged to ever contemplate the reality of any other truth. Or, Queen most succinctly put it on the first track of A Kind of Magic: